NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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Sen. Mike Groene

Sen. Mike Groene

District 42

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Once again, the month of June found taxpayers lining up at the county assessor’s office filing property valuation protests. Property taxes are a regressive tax that does not directly relate to the ability to pay, and are the number one complaint – by far – that I get from my constituents. In truth, it is not valuations that are the cause of high taxes, the culprit for burdensome property taxes is spending by government; always follow the money trail. But how do we gain property tax relief?

The question really is: Can we control government spending? First we need to lower our expectations of what government should do for us, for starter, parents do not expect government to raise our children.

Second, property valuations are only half of the equation, the tax rate levied by the local elected officials of public schools, city, county, NRD’s, and community colleges is the largest factor that can be lowered to give property tax relief. Taxpayers need to contact these elected officials and tell them you do not give them the authority to spend the excess tax dollars that will be generated from the huge valuation increases. The final numbers are not in from the County Assessor’s office, but estimates are that county wide the percent increase of total valuations could be in the double digits.

Watch the spending, there is no excuse for any government budget going up more than inflation, which is presently less than 2%.  Add in a little room for population growth and any taxing entity that raises its budget more than 3% is abusing the good will of the taxpayer.

The main user of property taxes is your public schools, for most taxpayers between 50-70% of their tax dollars go to the schools. The School Board can lower the tax rate from the max of 1.05 to 0.95 without losing state equalization aid. Any excuse that a school district can’t lower its tax rate because, for example, it may lose a perk in state aid, such as the $273,331 System Averaging Adjustment factor the North Platte Public schools received last year, should be dismissed by the taxpayer. If the School Board can raise administrator salaries 3% from $2,500 to $5000 per administrator, it should be able to give the taxpayers a break.

We are working on property tax relief. Since public schools take the largest majority of property tax dollars, any tax relief discussion must include the topic of a shift of funding from property taxes to income and sales taxes. This interim, the Education (I am a member of) and Revenue Committees are studying the makeup of the pool of money that funds education. Hopefully, we can come up with a method to shift some of the funding source from property taxes, without raising any new taxes (absolutely not an option for me). We also need to look at how to slow down the spending increases. Since 1990, when the present state aid formula was created, total combined taxpayer effort of property, income, and sales taxes has risen from $955 million to $3.1 billon, meanwhile student enrollment has gone up only 10.8 %. It is obvious that any lack of success by our public schools can’t be blamed on lack of support from the taxpayers. Just a thought, it may be that our hardworking teachers need a little more parental support, along with public support, in an effort to give them back disciplinary control of their classrooms.

The Natural Resources Committee has scheduled the public hearing to examine issues surrounding the N-CORPE augmentation project. The hearing will be held in North Platte on September 21st. If you have some input that you believe the senators should hear, make sure you put the date on your calendar, show up, and be heard.

Sen. Mike Groene

District 42
Room #1306
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2729
Email: mgroene@leg.ne.gov
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